Forgotten Friday Flick – “Obsession”

Forgotten Friday FlickWith the recent unforgettable five-star doc De Palma that wonderfully examines the work of the iconic film director hitting DVD and Blu-ray soon it felt like the right time for a little past master class in Brian’s bevy of cinematic classics – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  First up we’re heading into the early realms of De Palma’s Hitchcock homage pictures with a film that’s a hypnotic look at one man’s desire to preserve the past.  Passion, guilt, hope and raw human need – in other words…Obsession!

Obsession 1

Michael Courtland is a man who has it all – a flourishing real estate business, a gorgeous house, a beautiful wife Elizabeth and a doting daughter Amy.  But his wonderful world comes crashing down when his family is kidnapped and held for ransom.  Eager to get his wife and daughter back safely, Michael follows a plan laid out by police including filling the drop case with shredded paper.  But things go south and after a long chase with police the car containing Michael’s beloved ladies veers out of control and explodes.  Fifteen years later Michael remains a shell of a man and still blames himself for the tragedy that befell his family.  In his unwavering obsession with his late wife he has built a large monument in the replica shape of a church in Florence, Italy where he first met Elizabeth – a place of sadness that he visits frequently.  Worried about the morose Michael, his business partner Robert decides to take him on a business trip to Florence in hopes of lifting his spirits. It’s there where Michael not only revisits the actual church, but also meets by chance meets Sandra – a spitting image of his late wife.

Obsession 2

This is where all plot and descriptions end as any De Palma fan knows the unknown journey is half the fun.  Borrowing from the masterpiece Vertigo, De Palma and Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader have fun wielding Hitchcock’s familiar tropes, but also add their own flavor to make Obsession anything but a copycat.  And along with Schrader, film general De Palma wisely enlists a gaggle of skilled craftsman to tell his tale with perfect precision including the late great musician Bernard Herrmann and legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.  Matching the surreal style of the story, the sound and picture work in tandem to transport the audience into a rich and lush world where obsession can truly be a double-edged sword and as a result we feel every high and low.  De Palma uses all cinematic senses to immerse the audience in the sullen state of his leading man and the complexity of his harrowing journey – the surefire sign of a master craftsman at work.

Obsession 3

Of course the film would be merely smoke and mirrors without the on-camera talent to pull it off and Obsession’s cast does not disappoint.  As the sorrow filled Michael and the bright-eyed Sandra, De Palma enlists actors Cliff Robertson and Genevieve Bujold and it’s a match like no other.  Separately Robertson, in one of the best roles of his career, boldly lays his grieving husband and father emotionally barren for all to see, while Bujold harbors a mysterious magic that makes her inspired character easy to fall for.  But together there’s both a captivating chemistry and strange sense of suspenseful urgency that only happens when the characters click. (Plus there’s some early pre-Blow Out and Raising Cain John Lithgow playing Robertson’s ever-smiling partner!)

Some say that Obsession is merely a carbon copy of Hitch’s work, but I say look deeper.  In taking up the suspense mantle, in choosing to tell his story in a classic way and in paying homage to the work of his idol while still maintaining signature style, De Palma merely keeps the torrid thriller tradition alive and well.  And while it may seem similar to work that came before, the greats only make it look that way.  An original in very sense of the word, Obsession, not unlike its lead character, stands alone.

Obsession poster


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

1 Response to “Forgotten Friday Flick – “Obsession””

  1. Brandon Peters

    Awesome Forgotten Friday flick. I just recently revisited it via the Arrow Blu-ray and man, I loved it.